Medicaid expansion could save local hospital
To the Editor:
According to an article published in the Tennessean on May 16, there are fifteen hospitals across Tennessee that are losing money and in danger of closing. One of these is Tennova Healthcare - Shelbyville. The same article noted that ten small-town hospitals in Tennessee have already been forced to close over the past several years, and documented the ill effects of these closures on the people in the counties affected.
If our local hospital were to close, it would be very bad news for everybody in Shelbyville and Bedford County. For some people suffering life-threatening medical emergencies, the difference between the time that it takes to get to the Tennova emergency room, compared to the time it takes to get to Tullahoma or Murfreesboro, will mean the difference between life and death. For all of us, the absence of a hospital close to home will be a significant healthcare problem.
Healthcare in every state and county is evaluated and ranked every year by independent organizations outside of governments.* One of the categories ranked is “Clinical Care”, which includes number of uninsured people, number of primary care physicians, number of dentists, and number of mental health providers, as a fraction of population. In other words, “Clinical Care” is a measure of the accessibility of health care in a particular state and county.
According to the rankings, the accessibility of health care in Bedford county is not good, even though we have a hospital at present. If the hospital closes, this will get worse. Tennessee ranks 43rd among the 50 states in Clinical Care. Among the 95 counties in Tennessee, Bedford County ranks 67th in Clinical Care. Aside from the effects on current residents, businesses that are looking for places to locate are aware of these rankings, and they can see that every county surrounding Bedford has more accessible health care than we do. We need to improve in these rankings, not have them deteriorate further.
There is actually one simple action that will go a long way toward saving our hospital and improving our healthcare. That is for Tennessee to accept the Federal support that would come with expansion of Medicaid. This option was recommended by Governor Haslam, but has been blocked for years by our state legislature. It is past time to tell our legislators to approve Medicaid expansion.
William H. Woodruff
* State rankings can be viewed online at “America’s Health Rankings”, and county rankings at “County Health Rankings” published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The number of uninsured per capita in Bedford County is about twice Tennessee’s statewide average, while the number of primary care physicians, dentists, and mental health providers are all about half the statewide average. And Tennessee ranks among the bottom ten states in overall health.